A profession and a community of practice are different – but brilliant together

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** updated 11th June 2024 to clarify some definitions **

I have worked with Communities of Practice in organisations for many years. One recent trend I have seen is people using the term community when they mean the more formal construct of a profession and vice versa.

When organisations overlook the attributes of a community, they miss out on what makes a community of practice magic.

When they expect a community to fulfil the role of a profession, people get left behind. This post will explain some of those differences.

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Team Taxonomies for digital, data and technology organisations

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I have been working with digital, data, and technology organisations for a long time, many of which are in UK government departments. One thing that I have seen people get tripped up on is how they describe teams. 

Ambiguity about what a team is can create tensions, rework, and confusion and ultimately get in the way of the work.

To help, I’ve been developing a team taxonomy so that some of my clients and their teams can have better conversations about differences and similarities and hint at the expectations of interactions. This post shares these taxonomies in case they are useful to others, too.

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Capability Comb Team Workshop Miro template

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In my previous post Team exercise: Building empathy and understanding with the Capability Comb, I introduced an approach to help a team surface their capabilities and identify opportunities to collaborate.

Since then, I have created a miroboard on the miroverse to use with the workshop. You can get a copy of it here miro.com/miroverse/the-capability-comb-workshop-template . If you use it, please drop me a line and let me know how it goes.

Why can’t we all just get along? (again)

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Back in November last year I wrote up a talk I gave at Lean Agile Brighton called Why can’t we all just get along?

I’ve given the talk at a few more conferences and written it up as an article on InfoQ called Bridging Silos and Overcoming Collaboration Antipatterns in Multidisciplinary Organisations. The most recent time I spoke about it was at Seacon in London, and that 20-minute talk is here; enjoy!

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Talking about Learning at Agile on the Bench at Agile Cambridge

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This week, I have been back at the Agile Cambridge conference with Agile on the Bench with my co-host, Cara Bermingham.

Agile on the Bench is a friendly, low-fi, lunchtime, outdoor, agile meetup. A mix of 10min, mostly analogy-based talks about all things agile, people, teams, users and getting things done… outside, on a bench, in a park.

One of our speakers had to pull out last minute thanks to covid, so I went to my blog archives to find something suitable as a fill-in.

So here it is, updated and ready for a re-read.

* Photo of Mark Dalgarno speaking just before me, taken by Cara Bermingham

Team memory, organisational sharing and serendipity in distributed workplaces

Reading Time: 7 minutes

How do we know what’s going on when we’re working in remote or hybrid organisations? How do we get the right information to the right people, find what we need and bump into ideas that can lead to something else? Distributed workplaces make it hard, but not impossible. This post explores some of the ways that can enable sharing that helps teams remember, and people bump into information.

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Team exercise: Building empathy and understanding with the Capability Comb

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******Updated 26th Jan 2024******

In my recent post, Why Can’t we all get Along, I discussed the value of overlapping roles in multi/inter/transdisciplinary teams and referred to using the broken comb shape to describe skills and capabilities. In this post, I’ll expand on that theory and add an approach for using it to help teams build empathy, understanding and opportunities for contributions.

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Yay, people do blog; here are some great ones to follow

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For the last 9 months, I have been collating and sharing blog posts in a weekly newsletter called Posts from Awesome Folks*. I recommend doing it; it helps me keep up to date with what’s on people’s minds.

I have amassed a collection of RSS feeds and shared posts from around 350 authors around the themes of people and culture, organisations and systems, setting and measuring goals and, tools and approaches for teams. These posts come from both individual and organisational blogs, proving that people still blog. I love that people do; I write on my own blog, and I like the permanence of them over social media threads.

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Why can’t we all just get along?

Reading Time: 10 minutes

I initially gave this talk at Lead Agile Brighton in October 2022, then updated and refined the slide deck for Agile Manchester in May 2023, so I’ve updated this post too.

I’ve noticed an increasingly worrying trend in the industry of focus on specialisms at the expense of collaboration, shared responsibility and valuable outcomes.

There might be many reasons for this, from organisational structures, changing workforces or uncertainty in the world. However, this trend can create silos across departments, between roles, and even in teams.

These silos mean that all the value from a multidisciplinary team is lost, people get pigeonholed, and we lose focus on creating valuable outcomes for our users.

In this post, I will explore this trend, some reasons we might be seeing it, and some approaches and techniques to break those silos down to work together.

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My weekly newsletter: Posts from Awesome Folks (and some love for blogs)

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I recently started a newsletter digest of blog posts and articles I like. I started doing it to read more blog posts again; committing to sending something out helps keep me on track and is similar to something I regularly did back when I was at GDS (archived by Tom Banister here). People have started subscribing and telling me how much they appreciate it too, which is an added bonus.

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